Save The Indian River Lagoon Rally

"Save Our Indian River Lagoon"

“Save Our Indian River Lagoon”

Riverside Park came awake early this morning under blue skies and a scorching sun as people began arriving for the “Save Our Indian River Lagoon” Rally.  Many voiced concerns about the pollutants, the deaths of the animals, seagrasses and more, but it seemed throughout the day that the one overriding commitment was for the community to stop pointing fingers and laying blame and to get on with creating solutions and taking action to reduce the spread of toxins in the river.  The deaths of so many creatures of all sizes is taking a frightening toll on the community’s  well-being and people want and need to know what is going on in these precious waterways and how to stop the escalation of toxins.

Parking at the main parking area meant a walk across the fields to the back of the Rally reserved area, I walked up to meet Tom Flaherty, who presented a petition  for an Amendment by Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign to work toward the cleaning and salvation of our water, beaches and wildlife.  Flaherty says, “There have been so many funding cuts that it places our livelihoods in jeopardy, and we all have to get together to clean it up and stop the destruction.  This Amendment will help that to happen.”

Tom Flaherty talks with new arrivals about the petition to add an amendment for protecting Florida’s delicate ecosystem. [Photo by C. Spicer]

Tom Flaherty talks with new arrivals about the petition to add an amendment for protecting Florida’s delicate ecosystem. [Photo by C. Spicer]

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Stepping around to the next booth, Travis Beckett was in the process of completing the set up for Wild Thyme Catering’s  booth.  Beckett and his partner were invited by friend, Will Collins, another local restaurateur and one of the organizers of the event to bring food for attendees, including seafood specialties lobster po-boys and more.  Collins, along with Lange Sykes, Coastal Conservation Association Treasure Coast Chapter President, have used social media as one way to get the word out to the community.

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Seated, Will Collins and with microphone, Lange Sykes…. [Photo by C. Spicer]

Seated, Will Collins and with microphone, Lange Sykes…. [Photo by C. Spicer]

 The next set of booths had tickets for the barbecue along with items up for silent auction by the CCAF (Coastal Conservation Association of Florida), where Bill Camp, president of the state of Florida’s CCAF spoke emphatically on the need for action and the CCAF’s original mission.  “Originally, we were the Florida Conservation Association (FCA) until we joined the CCA. We were working at improving conditions for fisheries and protecting the natural resources.  It grew into examining species management and working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Item for the silent auction. [Photo by C Spicer]

Item for the silent auction. [Photo by C Spicer]

 “It’s a one-hundred year old problem that isn’t going to go away quickly,” says Camp.  “Starting when Governor Napoleon Bonapart Broward drained the Everglades and the later decisions were made to create I75 and the Tamiami Trail.  Florida went to a more agricultural style.  It’s more than water releases, it’s an accumulation of toxins as communities have made decisions to try to meet the needs of each area.  Instead of allowing the water to run south, as nature had it, men set it up to run east-west.  While that may not be the best answer, making sure that it runs primarily to the south as it was before should help a lot.  The toxins now are at a critical point from Tequesta all the way north to Volusia County.”

Bill Camp and Dan from CCAF

CCA Florida President Bill Camp and Dan from CCAF [Photo by C Spicer]

Camp continued, “While we are more focused on fishing, we now align ourselves with other groups working toward a common goal, which is to help our waters get healthy again because we realize how connected all of this is.  There has to be a middle ground.  It’s good to see people coming together to change policies.  Different organizations have differing focuses.  Some may be more rabid environmentalists, but now is the time to put aside differences and work together for the betterment of our natural resources.”

“Remember in the 70’s when recycling was looked upon as something done by radical hippie groups and today it’s second nature for us to recycle paper, glass and plastics.  It’s accepted, and not ‘us versus them’.  I came to help bring attention to the cause; to work together and create a real solution and to encourage the support of key legislation.  If that doesn’t work, we’ll come together again to work for some other solution,” Camp added.

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A few moments later, I spoke with Kimberly “Kimmy” Jones, a Vero Beach native and studies Environmental Management, earning her BS from University of Florida’s Indian River Research and Education Center.  She will be working on her Masters of Science in Ecological Restoration and has received accolades and scholarships for her studies.

Kimmy Jones, working toward her MS, explains that change will come through educating the next generations today. [Photo by C Spicer]

Kimmy Jones, working toward her MS, explains that change will come through educating the next generations today. [Photo by C Spicer]

Ms. Jones commented that her studies took her to Lake Tahoe in 2006, where environmental concerns are at the forefront of education and the general citizenry, not just something performed by radical individuals with an agenda. She said, “I believe things can get better, but it would be nice to see people really participate.  It would be nice to see as many people at an event like this as there were at last weeks’ Food Truck Frenzy.” 

Jones believes that many of the solutions put into place in Tahoe can be implemented here as well, but support will come from the up-and-coming generations.  Involving children to participate at a young age will be a keystone for the future of our area wetlands.  “There is enough blame to go around and continuing to place blame isn’t effective. We all need to come together at these events and to take action.  It’s a shame it had to get this bad before we begin to take action,” commented Jones.

[WAXE 107.9/ 1390/I <3 Radio Rally Live Report by Connie Spicer with Kimberly “Kimmy” Jones] Click link to listen

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Diane Morgan, from the Save the Manatee Club of Maitland, Florida, came to bring a love of these wonderful creatures to the local children and adults.  She provided coloring books and fact sheets and provided a great deal of material that details the urgency of community response in the toxin issues.

According to an article on the “Save the Manatee Club” website, “Since 2012, at least 111 manatees have died of unknown but presumed natural causes, possibly from a different toxin or toxic syndrome. With vast amounts of Brevard’s seagrass wiped out from a huge die off, it is still not known if manatees are accessing other food sources or contaminants that are making them sick and killing them.” Ms. Morgan wants the community to get involved and do all they can to save and protect this gentle giant.

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A few moments later, I ran into Trevor Hardie, who also works with the CCA of Florida.  A Vero Beach native, Hardie now works out of the Orlando office and expressed his happiness to be back home, despite the situation.  “I got into this to educate and to get involved with others, with local vendors and businesses.

Vero native Trevor Hardie, from CCAF Orlando chats a moment. [Photo by C Spicer]

Vero native Trevor Hardie, from CCAF Orlando chats a moment. [Photo by C Spicer]

Hardie wanted to make sure that everyone understands that we can all make a difference.  “We have to win specific battles, not just the war.  That will come with each win.  For example, in 1996, nets were used in our waters and we lost so many fish.  Once the nets were banned, it was five years before we saw good fish.  Now we have good scientists working on the issues.  We’re getting with other organizations and expanding into habitats, not just fishery management.”

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In the back of the park, “Lagoon Larry” Parks was working with a few dozen individuals to create oyster mats to put in specific areas within the lagoon.  According to Larry, one oyster (not one mat… one oyster) can filter one gallon of water per hour, removing toxins and collecting them onto the shells.  Called the RISSA project, the matting project was helped along by the Rotary Clubs of Vero Beach and Vero Beach Sunrise and the Indian River County Commission.  The oyster matting project is very high energy with many volunteers enjoying the camaraderie and accomplishment.

RISSA: Rotary Initiative for Submerged Seagrass Awareness information (Photo by C Spicer)

Completed oyster mats ready for placement [Photo by C Spicer]

Completed oyster mats ready for placement [Photo by C Spicer]

“Lagoon Larry” Larry Parks and friend with one of the oyster mats [Photo by C Spicer]

“Lagoon Larry” Larry Parks and friend with one of the oyster mats [Photo by C Spicer]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Ocean Research & Conservation Association (ORCA) has also become involved in the local issue and has created a Campaign for a Clean Indian River Lagoon.  They developed a plan to identify pollutants and their sources and to correct or eliminate the issues so the waters are restored to non-toxic and clear levels.

Introduced to the attendees by Lange Sykes, Dr. Edith (Edie) Widder is the co-founder, CEO and Senior Scientist at ORCA, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting aquatic ecosystems and the species they sustain through development of innovative technologies and science-based conservation action.  She and her fellows tested and mapped out the river from the 17th Street Bridge down to Barber Bridge and back, including the canals of the area.  The results which included primarily nitrogen pollutants, are frightening to view.

Mapped toxins in the Vero Beach section of the Indian River just from the 17th Street Bridge to the Barber Bridge and back [Photo by C Spicer]

Mapped toxins in the Vero Beach section of the Indian River just from the 17th Street Bridge to the Barber Bridge and back [Photo by C Spicer]

“One area of note on this graph,” Dr. Widder remarked, “is the area in the left-most side of the map showing these two clean, blue canals.  We found these located within and around the Vero Beach Country Club.  We checked into what they were doing there in order to keep the canals so clean and discovered that they are performing ‘best practices’ using low-nitrogen fertilizers, collecting the area debris and making sure that toxins are removed from their area, rather than allowing it to flow into the canals.  If we approach all the canals in a similar manner they will respond to the actions and will recover in time. “

Widder continued, “Here is what happens: In many communities, landscaping and maintenance crews just blow grasses and clippings out of the yards and streets and they wind up collecting in the canals.  The grasses are not contained by baffle boxes, so they build up nitrogens and that, in turn, feeds the toxic algae blooms.”

ORCA proposes a three-step plan which includes first using ORCA’s Fast Assessment of Sediment Toxicity program, (FAST ™) to find the locations where pollution has accumulated in the sediment.  Secondly, making use of KILROY ™, a low-cost, wireless, water quality monitoring device, which determines from where the pollutants came by tracking water flow patterns; and finally, once those hot-spots are identified, they will help the community address these issues through education, outreach and land use management programs.

(Audio: Edie Widders talks about Kilroys in the Indian River Lagoon)

Dr. Edie Widder talks about mapping the toxins and discovering the sources of pollutants. [Photo by C Spicer]

Dr. Edie Widder talks about mapping the toxins and discovering the sources of pollutants. [Photo by C Spicer]

Dr. Widder notes these issues are not unique to Indian River waterways.  The Chesapeake Bay area has had issues with pollutants for some time and the community is now taking proactive approaches to discover the true problem areas and resolve their issues after stop-gaps and band-aid solutions failed time and again.

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According to United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water in their publication EPA 832-F-01-004 of September 2001:

”Baffle boxes have proven effective in removing sediment from storm water runoff.  They are mainly utilized in areas where sediment control is a primary concern, while other storm water Best Management Practices (BMPs) are more effective in areas where additional storm water pollutants, such as dissolved nutrients, oil and grease, or metals, are prevalent.”

“Baffle boxes are simple, inexpensive storm water bins that effectively remove sediment and suspended solids from storm water.  A primary advantage of baffle boxes is that they can be retrofitted into existing storm lines, allowing installation within existing rights-of-way.”

In reviewing the data currently on-line which notes the publication reviewed, data included referenced programs that have already been in existence in Indian River County.  It will be interesting to follow-up to see what data is accumulated from those programs and to see what organizations are currently working to maintain the boxes in use in the IRC area.

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Dr. Grant Gilmore discusses the need to protect the fish habitat and plays recordings made of fish calls made by snook and trout. [Photo by C Spicer]

Dr. Grant Gilmore discusses the need to protect the fish habitat and plays recordings made of fish calls made by snook and trout. [Photo by C Spicer]

Following Dr. Widder was Dr. Grant Gilmore, a senior scientist at Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, Inc. (ECOS).  Dr. Gilmore began discussing the need to rebuild the spawning areas as soon as possible, so the snook and redfish and other game fish would return in healthy numbers.

Stressing individual responsibility, Gilmore claimed that regardless of any current ordinances or actions that politicians might take, every person needed to take ownership of the cleanup in order to make a solid recovery in the lagoon. He regaled the audience with fish calls from snook and striped trout, describing when and how fish actually call for their potential mates and discussed what is happening to their ecosystem here in the lagoon.

http://www.mixcloud.com/cjspicer1/dr-grant-gilmore-talks-toxins-in-irc-lagoon/

 

2 comments on “Save The Indian River Lagoon Rally

    • I wish I knew for sure, Larry, but I would say there are enough activist types to keep it interesting (especially in light of what we’ve been seeing since I posted that article.) There are currently 6 Facebook page groups alone dedicated to the Indian River Lagoon, and while a couple have minimal membership, there are 2 with over two thousand people, one group with over a thousand, and two with over 500 in membership, so I would say, even with crossover, there are plenty of folks who are very concerned — enough so to seek out pages to stay informed on a local level. I realize that the lagoon encompasses a number of counties and Indian River is tiny, in comparison, but we can be some mighty mouses!

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